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Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Umbrellas

Lesson 9 from: Studio Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Umbrellas

Lesson 9 from: Studio Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

9. Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Umbrellas

Umbrellas are a large, inexpensive, and easy-to-use light modifier. Work with the different types of collapsible umbrellas, including silver, white and shoot through. Discover how to place the umbrella and work with umbrellas in a portrait shoot.


Class Trailer

Day 1


Studio Essentials: Shutter Speed


Studio Essentials: Flash Exposure


Studio Essentials: White Balance


Light Principles: Inverse Square Law


Lighting Patterns


Shoot: Demo Lighting Patterns


Quality of Light and Modifiers


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Diffusion and Grid


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Umbrellas


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Softboxes


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Extra Stuff


10 One Light Set-ups: 1 and 2


10 One Light Set-ups: 3 to 5


10 One Light Set-ups: 6 to 10


One Light Set-ups: Pop Quiz


Day 2


FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 1


FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 2


FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 3


10 Two Light Set-Ups: 1 and 2


10 Two Light Set-Ups: 3 to 6


10 Two Light Set-Ups: 7 to 10


5 Two Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2


5 Two Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5


5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2


5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5


5 Intermediate Three Light Set-Ups: 1 to 3


5 Intermediate Three Light Set-Ups: 4 & 5


10 Common Lighting Mistakes


Day 3


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 1


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 2 to 6


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 7


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 8


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 9


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 10 to 12


Portrait Lighting: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Beauty Lighting: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Lighting Groups: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Lighting for Drama: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Your First Studio Lighting


Lesson Info

Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Umbrellas

We're going to do is talk about umbrellas, all the different types of umbrellas, what you would use them for when you would use them what you should buy, like that kind of thing. And I will preface this with a little story of hallway started my first studio or my first did you lighting set ups? I had two silver umbrellas about thirty inches or so that I placed on either side of the subject to completely flat late the subject. And looking back at those photos, I learned about soft boxes, and as I learned about other modifiers, I disliked my photo so much that I wouldn't touch umbrellas, and then recently even just preparing for this class I was like, ok, you know, I know that there's photographers they use umbrellas successfully let me revisit this, and I was absolutely surprised at how great equality of light you can get from a variety of different umbrellas. I tend to shoot more soft boxes now, but it's all about which ones you choose, where you put them, how you use them, not complet...

ely flattening out the photo, so I kind of reclaimed the umbrella and we're going to talk about how to use it and what's great about umbrellas it's a relatively portable the best part is they're really inexpensive. And I think that's what a lot of everybody generally shooting starts with an umbrella and they're easy to use, so we're going to take a look at a few of them. I'm going to ask my model to come out here for a second, and we're going to switch over to some umbrellas and I wanted to start off. Can I have a small white for a second? Let's, take a look at that rule that I was talking about before? Uh, no it's that well, we talked about before of yeah, the larger the light source is relative to the subject, the softer, the light. We're going to kind of take a look at this so you can come sit right out in the middle again. Um, okay, when you're using an umbrella, a couple things you want to keep in mind is where you place the light on the shaft of the umbrella. So what ends up happening is you can think of this just like the bucket of water example, if you place the light really, really close, say in a large umbrella, the light or the water that you're throwing into the umbrella, it doesn't have time to spread out and basically just hit a small core in the center. So if you have it, the light split all the way up to the top here, you're not really filling the umbrella, which means that you don't really have a very large light source is actually pretty small, so if you're trying to get a softer light source, or you're trying to get the light to spread out more, you'd have the light more down towards the bottom of the shaft, so it has time to spread out. You can actually modify umbrellas to like, if you want a more focused light and you can kind of halfway collapsed like there's all these ways to play with them, but as a general rule of thumb, you just don't want your light all the way in, especially if you're seeking softer light. All right? So I'm going tio again and you can move it right back in the middle, so I'm going to put this white umbrella on, and what you'll see is generally something smaller like this, you don't really have that much room to work with, like I can't even project it that far. So if you look at this distance or knows any of the cameras can see it, I can actually check with the modeling light on when I just change this real quick you could actually see with the modeling light if I move it really far in I mean, you can tell that the light's not selling the whole umbrella when you spread it out that's when you get a little bit more even fill so if you want to flip that for me, um I'll give you a downside of an umbrella though how an umbrella works particularly like this is it just throws light everywhere it just tosses it in every way direction it doesn't have a lot of control um soft boxes, however, contain that light a little bit better with a similar quality. The light where this becomes a problem for example, is many of us probably have is a small studio a small space that we're working in because what happens is we take this light, it bounces the umbrella and it just spill water spilled out everywhere that light spilled out in every direction. The reason that would be problematic is let's say on this side of her face I would like a little bit of shadow area but that light went everywhere it's balancing off the ceilings it's bouncing off the walls is bouncing off the floors it's just spread out and so it's hard to control the shadows it's hard to control the shape of the light there just isn't that much control, but if you're just trying to get a nice quality of light on the face that looks okay for a portrait it's fine it's totally fine so let's take a look at that my rule was larger than the light sources compared or relative to the subject the softer the lights were going to move it knife and super duper close because that's how I'm gonna get it to be a nice glowing light source right about there let me grab this and make sure everything's on perfect perfect so great at me and I mean pop this down a little bit of change the light ok so in my opinion looking at the quality of the shadows in the late this one to bed it's soft it's wrapping the shadows aren't too chris they aren't too soft it looks like a decent quality of light, but notice how close I am it's actually hard for me to frame up and not get this in the frame because it's small and white so I need to bring it really close to make it soft. All right, well let's say that I wanted to give myself a little bit more working distance and I start to back this up since it all right, I need full length or maybe you just don't know any better so you set the light up over here, for example well, first of all I told you it's going to get darker, the late backed up water doesn't reach so far, she's going to be darker so I will need to compensate either with my aperture or turning up the light could pick that open up a little bit, but what we want to do is take a look at the quality of light now, okay, so I stepped out of the way a little bit take one more and if we can compare those two shots, said my son, that one and then two before so what you'll see is on this one as the light is backed up a little bit, a little bit more speculator and the cheeks it's a little bit more contrast see there's a little bit sharper like I don't have enough shadow for for you to see here going to give you a little bit more, but you'll see that the shadow gets a little bit more sharp, so let me just create a little bit more there we go back in after the side great there let's try that and if you pull it off a little bit more loop yeah, what I'm doing here is you couldn't see the shadow enough to tell the quality, so it moved it out a little bit let's try this one, so charge the first one and then this one as well, maybe even a tiny bit more that way just like a half a foot, ok okay, now you can tell in the shadow thank you, john. So that first one and this one shattered just gets a little bit more crisp. It's just not as wrapping or glowing of a light as the first one like few back. All right, so if you're then and go even further back than that to the very first umbrella shot let's see? All right. So this would be a white umbrella if you're going to use it, you had to bring it it's close if it's soft ice let me switch over. Yeah, that's what I was looking at ok, so looking at the quality lights between these two that's what I want you to see in general, the reason that this is better it's a little softer on the skin it wraps around a little bit more tends to be a better quality over here, it's just a little bit flatter there's not as much wrapped the the skin just looks a little bit more textured, but not in a good way. So you're looking more for the light on the left just has a little bit more glow to it. For me, the right of the image on the right starts to look kind of in the realm of flash on camera, you know that look, we're just has a texture to the skin so the closer I could get it, the more starts rapping and looking like a professional image. All right, well, in this case we had a small umbrella, so I didn't bring it so close, but that might be in my image, so what I could do is another solution is if I need to be back further on lee had this umbrella, maybe it would try a silver umbrella, have a silver midsize, how with silver, silver tosses the light farther like it will carry farther, however it's also going to be a little bit more speculator and this is what I had. You can switch him if you like. This is what I had for a pretty long time. What I would recommend is I don't love silver like flat on like in paramount, silver and paramount starts to look like the flash on camera look think it doesn't have that soft wrapping quality it straight on towards camera. If you're going to use the silver, just give it a little bit of direction, pull it off to the side toe look just a little bit, so something like this let's, give it a try, and for those of you before, who wanted to see, maybe this gives me a little more distance, kind of a light meter. So if you did want to see again, you know how it might take a meter reading if I don't want to guess if I want to see what my cameras was suggesting to me, I'm going to set those original settings back on the light meter and so I'm at I have some one hundred one two hundredth of a second and then I'm going to have her with the dome out whatever side the light is on that's where she's going to place it there was a question that I saw that somebody had do you're pointing at the light or do you put it pointed towards the camera right now it's on the side of her face that the light is on so it can go straight towards the camera it's still getting all of that like so it's still going to give you the correct exposure you just she can't do this can you hold your hand extreme? She can't do that because the way it's gonna be nothing close it is literally got to be up against her face so was close to coming around her eye as possible so if I hit tests and they said I hold hit the button there all right so I made it one more time so the button right here going to get out of the way the light and hold it one more time so it says seven o so that's, how I would figure out without having to guess, especially if I don't feel confident at looking at my own exposure, so ok, cool, so seven hours I'm going to set my camera to seven point oh, perfect and right here, okay, so taking a look at this, what we're going to talk about, one of the segments I have later on is so I have the common problem areas, but I also have a top ten mistakes that I see, and one of the mistakes I often see is what I did early on is taking two umbrellas from either side because in my mind I said, all right, so when she says she wants a little drama, so maybe will lie create some shadow, but now I think that shadow is a little too dark, so I'm going to add another light over here, and what ends up happening is you get light from two directions and you get shadows on either side of the nose created by two different light sources and it's not flattering, and it makes a person's face look wider because you've highlighted from the left, which makes this stand out and you violated from the right, which makes this stand out, so keep in mind for something like this flat on doesn't really give you much shape, but if you pull it too far off to the side and then just add a phil then you end up getting cross light so I recommend something something in the loop distance closer I bring it the softer that light will be and that is a pretty decent quality light, so I was biased against umbrellas. I think that looks fine for a portrait. You look very pretty. This year proves ok get excellent. All right, so that would be silver umbrella, but let's, take a look at the next example. Can I have the shoot through? So so the shoot through is going to spread out that light in tons of directions. This one gives you even less control before the light goes, it spreads everywhere. It bounces back onto the ceiling it shoots through, it spreads out so again, if your goal is control, it wouldn't be this. And if you're trying to get true dark shadows on one side of the face these will make it more challenging for you. So this one is a small shoot through umbrella. The first to notice we bounced into the umbrella and kicked back at the subject. This one we're going to flip around and it's shooting straight towards her. This would be giving you more of the quality of the closer to the quality of light you would get with a soft box but not quite still going to be really, really soft and so because this is so wide what ends up happening is you've got that light on her face but you've also got this light reaching around it's kind of wrapping around her so the gravy it from the shattered a highlight is subtle it's soft is really soft light source because it's such a broad wrap around like so I could do the same thing if I want I'll just have you like hold this in your lap if you will we're in your hand or whatever I was going to test it in between shots you like that's a weird photo okay you wanna hold it right in front your face again and that study facial quick perfect so that tells me a tow chain a little bit you can hold it probably use it again all right so perfect and I've switched to eight point oh great and so will give me a nice wrapping soft light source but I've got a little bit of an issue because I really don't have that much room to work I like how the light looks it's soft I've made sure that I've put the light at the end of the shaft politic light can spread out that's all good but it's still kind of small and it's like flat out in my way it is right in the shot if I back it up too much smaller the light source is relative to the subject, the more contrast to the light, then it's not going to be that same glowing light, so your solution would be to get a larger shoot through umbrella. So can we set up the major huge one? Okay, the major huge one would also be better for lighting full length more evenly. What it would not be good for is if you have a studio space with eight foot ceilings. So it's, why it's a constant, constant tradeoff? One of the things we'll talk about in common mistakes is lighting to get rid of reflections and glasses. This would not be good for it because you just gave yourself a gigantic, reflective surface. If you're in a small space, you can't move it around to try to get rid of some of the reflections. So just knowing all these, uh, pros and cons will help you out, so we're going to try on this one daughter and her move. Okay? I've had quite a few stories about knocking into people, ok? And so this would be an instance. Where now? For that similar quality of light, I could back it up even till, like almost behind me. Also because this light throws so far let's say I bring it back and we talked about her inverse square left I bring it back really far I don't need it to be right up next to her that light is going to be nice left but also relative to the background it's not that far away so my like my background is going to be lighter where's with the other umbrella I had to bring it really really close into the background relatively is pretty far so it's going to get darker here I'll have a lighter background so that these are all things if I decide that I want the background to be darker and we have to do something about it my options would be felt the background to be darker aiken moved her closer and I could move both the background are both the subject in the light further from the background so let's take a look at how this looks and let's give it a quick test yeah and just hit the button on the side the big one yeah perfect you know what they say can differ? Well perfect. Okay, so three point six so when she reads to me that it's three point six that means that there is not much like I'm gonna have to open up my opera too huge to try to get more lighten the problem is I don't really want to shoot that wide open that's more wide open that I want to in this photograph so what we're going to do is I could bump up my I s o but I want a low I s o so I know that my life was not at full power so we can pump that up and give it another try so same thing right next to face great and so that time and read seven oh I'm find with seven point oh so I can put my aperture on my camera into seven point oh and give it a nice test here a little closer great so this will be very, very soft wrapping light and you guys can't see that but it's wrapping light and if I want the background to be totally white now can I have you take your chair back like close to the background now she's pretty close to the background the distance is a relative this is big so it's still going to be soft even if I have to pull it away. So let me give a test on that. I want to read it to me perfect perfect applies at seven the same distance between her and the lights it stayed the same as long as that relative distance between her and this light is the same for good so let me give it a quick run here and so if you look it's going to be an almost pure white background, whereas if she's really far away with a small umbrella really close it's going to be a darker background caesar, all kind of things I'm thinking about, so if you're in a small space, were smaller space and you don't have the ability to light a background white, maybe you on ly have one like and you wish you had a white background or it's a tiny space, you don't have enough room to put lights on the background kind of keep this idea in mind. Have your subject closer to the background, use a bigger light source and further away and because it's further away she's on a similar plane, is that background so they'll be similarly lit? And because it's big, it'll still be soft, even though it's, far away and so you could get pure white. I'm shooting wider, so just, you know, and she look of mid length, I also have a shadow on the background, but it's still going to be a soft shadow causes a soft light, and so you could get a pretty white background without having to light it, so that might be a good solution for some people, and we see that any questions on that we switch the couple of questions one being with the with the umbrella being this large, I noticed that you were able to show kind of scooting as shoot in front of it. Yes, and is that because of the size versus a little one? Would you not do that? Yeah in front of it. Perfect question. So if you're even if you're looking at the example of her that's up on the screen currently she should be casting a shadow in the background and she is but because of late so broad it's just really saw austin diffused because some of the light on the far side of the umbrella is wrapping around filling in the shadow and it just softens it out. So the same thing when I stand up for the huge light source kind of just wrapping around me like I'm not creating a big dark shadow in the way, so that is also a benefit and I've seen plenty of photographer shoot with that massive umbrella right over their shoulder for totally flat light we'll have it directly behind them and you can see the photographer in the catch late in the eye, but the light's still say is really soft and wrapping you don't see a big shadow if I took a small silver umbrella and stood in front of it, I would completely be obscuring the light so the bigger light source can kind of wrapping work around me and given tio question perfect and so just to review again for folks the question is what is the difference between using an umbrella pointed to versus away from the subject so shoot through versus bounce yes so basically the shoot through is using the qualities of diffusion so what it means is a shooter hits that umbrella and spreads out that umbrella surface becomes the size of that lights and it's going to be soft like like any shoot through any diffusion is going to be soft whereas when you reflect it you can definitely have like a higher crunch contrast has it on silver have it a little bit more focused um and then there's a couple other things you can do to modify a reflective compared to a shoot through shoot there's also do get into a little in the way a little bit more I found this a little bit bulk here to work with way switched over tio a giant silver you'll just see more contrast if I do the same thing that this time it's reflective and we'll take a test here so what you'll be able to see what is that? Okay so no no so I asked her for ready and this is why I like I took the reading I knew that I wasn't built it's going to be able to guess what it was that so she clicked I clicked on it flashing says f eighteen which means that is a really bright light because I need a really small hole to try to block out some of that light ok so she told me it was f eighteen I don't want to shoot a f eighteen most lenses not all the most lenses that's not the best quality of the lens and sometimes some lenses actually start degrading at really high apertures also someone's don't go to f eighteen some stop it f sixteen so we instead decided to control the output of the light I'm already at my lowest I so that won't help I don't want to shoot a f eighteen's we turn down the clog the power of the light and I can give it another test okay so that's more around where I wanted to be what you will see is these those two lights were similar light sources we had the shoot through umbrella that was large and now we have a reflective silver she'll be able to see the differences and you also able to see the difference in the quality of the shadow behind her it may take a test we'll take a close up one first and take a little bit wider second so very very soft wrapping light minimal shadow in this first one where is in the second example now the shadow becomes more chris because the light has more contrast to it and it has a little bit more definition I see between what number is this can you put a eighty one seventy eight okay that one and then the one like two or three before it was just a little bit softer okay so fast forwarding through all of this so far what I would recommend is you're trying to figure out which one of these would you want if you want an umbrella okay so first of all, what size space do you have if it's huge maybe you want a big soft diffuse light source if it's small you're not going to go with something like this you know I mean you're not going to have any ability to get the height correct ok the necks saying that you would consider is are you lighting groups of people if you're lighting groups of people you'll want a larger light source so that it can more evenly light multiple people cause for example of I grab I have a little umbrella over there oh I see it pop up here all right so I don't know if you can get me I'm gonna use my audience as an example all right so if I have a small umbrella and I light from here you are going to be very bright and then quickly darker, darker, darker and they'll be almost no illumination on you so I know that in order to have the distance is roughly equal so that the exposure is equal and everybody I gotta back up so everybody is roughly roughly the same distance from this umbrella problem is now compared to you guys it's really small so few lighting groups you want to want to make the lot of fire bigger you want a big umbrella? Something like that? This would be awesome for a group, so they're kind of some of the considerations so we took a shot at this I want to show you ah modification that both john and I used to my keep with the diffusion on okay, so this is what I like to do. This is the in between solidly in between an umbrella and a soft box and one of the benefits of an umbrella is this like there's? No drama of having it. I don't know if you guys have set up soft boxes before but like putting him in this stupid speed rings and trying its super annoying. Now add to that when you have a gigantic soft box trying to set up a gigantic soft box by yourself is incredibly difficult. All right, so what he is doing here, what they're helping me out with is you can actually take this umbrella, put a diffusion in front of it and you shoot into the umbrella and it comes back out the diffusion and acts like a soft box so if any of you watch behind the scenes of any liebowitz shoe she uses this all the time on location. The one she uses is a foe tex phot e k and that's what she'll use you'll use a large similar size to this so that the stroke points right back into the umbrella and diffuses out and she'll use a large umbrella just like this. So if it's good enough for vogue and annie liebowitz, I think it's good enough for a lot of us. Okay, the one that I'm using right here is not ok. I think this is silly it's, not foe text this one. I'm using its vote ticks c h o k e x with the diffusion as well. So this is giving it a little bit more death. But what usually happens when you use you? Use an umbrella if it just pours out over the edges and spreads out everywhere what this does, if it controls the light, it forces it forward a little bit more and it makes it softer because it's diffusion if if you want to have an easy pop up soft box that you could take on location that's, broad and wrapping and great for a group, I would recommend something like this it's just a little bit unwieldy, so, like, what do you kind of comfortable is so let's pop it around to her because this and there's ones that are smaller than this to you don't have to get this gigantic this just happens to be the one I own and I when I should go on location a lot if I want to take a gigantic window this is awesome for imitating a big window test this you go six three perfect and just looks like a really big soft box I like that like so out of all of them my vote is I like this light if I'm going for really really soft but if this is going to be difficult to manage, pick something smaller pick something more manageable just don't go I would not go with a small silver umbrella I go for a midsize silver or a mid sized white or something big with the fusion ok? Yes the white interior umbrellas versus silver do you feel like you get a much better quality out of those with the diffuser on okay, so I don't I don't personally use the white with the diffusion because it ends up cutting down a ton of light because the white doesn't kick is much back and then I added diffusion so I end up losing a whole bunch of stops of light and I often take this on location where I want a little bit more to it so I use you silver and it's I see like minimal quality of light difference cool all right, so I'm gonna keep going with that. I like this thing john took a picture of me with one of these yesterday I got to be his model it's pretty fun. Okay, I'm gonna go back tio back to you know and we're going to take a look at so I summarize this silver has more contrast wait a softer shoot through is the most defused this is like the in between realm of soft box and umbrella talked about that. All right, so umbrellas versus soft boxes can I have a couple soft boxes out here there let's see the rapid box and the other one I'll bring them both out here. Okay? Yes reviewing I guess on the umbrella front yeah, we're talking about large medium again. What is the size of this large? Like? Well, they're extra large actually is like seven foot leisure like huge via the seven foot shoot through I think this is a seventy two inch umbrella. Typically the small is the one that I popped up before and so it's something like, like twenty inches thirty forty and then it goes to, like seventy on and everything in between so kind of depends on what you're looking for and with with with regard tio those the umbrellas and the larger groups okay, so this question actually is coming in about two lights and okay, well, umbrellas yet I'm gonna have you save that thought, because we're going to start adding on different life. Yeah, so I'm just going and that's, I mean, and that's something that is a good solution. If used correctly for lighting groups, you just got to know how to do it.

Class Materials

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Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


If you're on the fence about this class I can easily answer your concerns. BUY IT. Lindsay provides top notch professional education while keeping things interesting. Her words are precise and direct. I actually felt GOOD just watching and learning. I mean, like someone surprised me with a cupcake kinda GOOD. After the class I could immediately see improvements in my photography. The best part is that I learned enough to see the wrong in my setups. Knowing what's wrong is just as important as knowing what's right. She is funny, easy going, energetic and filled with knowledge. I would also highly recommend her Posing 101 class as a must have addition to this course. I feel like I have learned more than I could possibly use. I will be going through this course over and over again just to make sure it all sinks in. There's THAT MUCH she offers that you will always learn more with each time you watch. I hope this helps someone make the decision to up their game. That is exactly what it did for me.

Jason Ashley

I loved this course! Lindsay spent so much time with explaining each set-up in-depth that anyone picking up a camera could understand how to accomplish their lighting goals. This course covered so many unique (but, most likely to come across scenarios) and how one would approach the challenge and how to successfully accomplish with incredible results, not average-sub-standard or basic results, but above entry-level standards, high-level, money-generating lighting expertise! ZERO laziness in her explanations to the point where she is constantly refining her course in the middle of the 3 days. Her passion gleams throughout each days lessons with so much energy. You know she really wants her students both in-person and through the screen to be successful in whatever type of lighting they choose to dabble in. I am so happy, I have bookmarked, and i'm so happy and fortunate to have this course to reference for hopefully –everrrr. Thanks!

Beatrice Palma

Hi, I am Beatrice from Italy. I think this class is superb. I finally understood what are the guide lines to follow, I tried for years but never found such a good explanation. Lindsay is a wonderful teacher, she explains in a simple way, she shares a lot of knowledge and she shows in practice what are the results of every single choice. Thank you so much, it was really amazing and super interesting!!!!

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